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Bredhurst Receiving and Transmitting Society

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This section is all about helping you to remember the dangers areas there are in the hobby and how to try to avoid accidents. Now that you have come this far into the hobby we don't want to lose you !!

There is no revision section for this part of the course.

9. Safety

9a Soldering

9a.1 Recall that a soldering-iron stand must be used to avoid skin contact with the hot bit of the iron when not in use.
Soldering stand

A soldering iron bit is the hot part and the stand is the relatively cool part. A soldering stand is used when the soldering iron is not in use to try to avoid contact between the soldering iron bit and your skin which would be readily burned.

The temperature of the soldering bit may reach 400C or even higher!

There are parts of even the soldering iron stand which get hot namely the spring,if the stand has one, into which the iron is placed. This spring also acts as a heat sink to take away heat from the tip and reduce decay and thus increases the life of the tip.

Also keep the cleaning pad in the stand damp - not soaking wet - so that you can readily clean the tip of the soldering iron.

NEVER have WATER near by when you are using mains electricity

Keep that coffee cup away from your work area.

Understand that soldering work benches must be well ventilated to avoid inhalation of solder fumes, which can cause breathing problems particularly to asthmatics.

When soldering fumes are given off from electronic solder which is a special type of solder which is called "cored" solder. The core holds the "flux" which enhances the cleaning of the surfaces to be joined. The flux when it becomes hot burns and gives off a vapour which should not be inhaled as there is the possibility of it causing breathing problems including asthma.

Understand that eye protection must be worn when soldering to prevent solder from splashing into the eyes.
Safety specs

Both the flux and the solder is at very high temperature and both can spit if the surface of the board is damp due to the fact that the water quickly turns to steam and when mixed with the flux or solder created minor explosions or spitting.

Flux and solder must NOT be allowed to reach your eyes, else damage could occur so the wearing of protective goggles is necessary.

9b Use of hand tools

9b.1 Understand that screwdrivers, drills, saws, and files must be handled with care to prevent cuts to the hands and face.

"Why do we have to understand the dangers of hand tools ?" - Asked a student the other evening. The answer is that the possibility of carrying out construction of your own equipment, even in a small way is now becoming a practicality, so this is a general introduction to the dangers of the most common of tools etc that might be used.


Even the humble screwdriver could cause up injury is it slips out of a screw head and hits your hand, for instance, so always consider what could happen and avoid accidents.

With the drill it is a little more obvious that injury could occur as a drill is intended to cut but ensure that it cut in the right place - such as a hole through metal wood etc.

Again the saw is intended to cut so make sure it is only the piece that you are working on the is cut. Even a small saw like this one has a very sharp blade and with the small teeth can easily cut into your fingers etc !!!

Few people know about the damage that a file can cause if it does not have a proper handle. The handle end if a file has a pointed "tang" which is inserted into a handle and should the handle become detached and the operator uses the file with the handle they risk stabbing their hand with the file's tang. The file with its handle attached is shown in the picture below. Be aware that sometimes is the handle is wooden that it can dry out and slip off the tang leading to danger!!

Remember to keep all actions where there is a chance of impact with hand, face or any other part of the body under proper control.

9b.2 Understand that any items being drilled, sawn or filed must be securely held in a vice or similar device to prevent them slipping or rotating.

So that injuries are kept to a minimum, all items that are to be worked upon must be properly held so that they will remain held until the action that it carried out on them is completed. Dangers occur when items can slip or rotate.

The picture shows a small vice which is suitable for carrying in your tool box and fixing to a bench top (with suitable protection against scratching !!)

9b.3 Understand that the chuck key must be removed before using a drill to prevent the key being ejected at high speed.
Drill chuck key

Many electric drills have what is called a chuck key. This is used to lock for instance a drill into the chuck prior to drilling a hole. If the drill is started before the chuck key is removed then there is a great danger that the key will fly out, at high speed, and could impact any where and if this is with your body great injury could result.

9b.4 Understand that using a centre punch will prevent a drill bit slipping.
Centre punches

There is a simple tool called a centre punch which can greatly reduce the chance of a drill bit slipping on a material you want to drill.

By placing the tip of the punch on the point where you wish to drill a hole and smartly hitting the other end with a hammer a small indentation is formed that will "start" the drill in the right place and reduce slipping.

9b.5 Understand that eye protection must be worn when drilling to prevent eye damage from small metal particles (swarf).
Safety specs When drilling, especially metal, chipping called swarf, which are small particles, are thrown off and these would particularly cause eye damage. The risk is even greater when drilling brass as brass being none magnetic, if you did get swarf in your eye the surgeon could not use a magnet to help recover the swarf, which they might do with some steels which are magnetic.

9b.6 Understand the reasons why a bench-mounted pillar drill is safer than a hand-held drill.
Pillar drill

The hand drill is prone to moving about whilst you are drilling particularly large holes in thin metal. Thus it is much safer to use a pillar drill which holds the cutting drill steady and so long as the piece being drilled is held still the risk of injury is much reduced.

9c Working at heights

9c.1 Recall that a ladder should be used at the correct angle (4:1 height-to-base ratio).
Ladder safety angle When working on a ladder to put up antennas etc remember the golden rule is 1 out for 4 up.

Or put it another way for every 1 metre the ladder is out from the wall you can be 4 metres up the wall.

How ever you want to remember it:- the golden rule is "1 out for 4 up".

9c.2 Understand that ladders must be secured at the top or securely held at the bottom by an adult to prevent them slipping.

When you are up a ladder, you have the chance to fall off if the ladder moves. Thus tie the ladder firmly at the top so that it cannot move and whilst doing that have an adult who knows what they are doing holding it at the bottom. Better still get two adults to make the ladder as safe as possible and let them do the necessary work - less fun but safer!

9c.3 Understand why it is important not to overreach from a ladder, to prevent falling off.

When you are on a ladder remember another golden rule :-

"Always have three limbs in contact with the ladder"

that will prevent you from over reaching. If you do over reach a ladder at least two things could :-

  • you fall off or

  • the ladder turns round and you end up on the under side wondering what on earth happened and thinking what you are going to do next.

9c.4 Understand why a tool belt or similar device to carry tools should be used, and that it will help prevent falling objects.
Tool belt When working above ground level it is good practise to use some form of tool belt to hold tools that you are going to use. It means that the tools are :
  • to hand

  • are not left after you have come down

  • helps prevent them be knocked off a resting place down to the ground with the possibility of hitting the person holding the ladder !!

Understand the need to wear hard hats when working at height or when others are working at height.
Hard Hat Now a hard hat is not a fashion accessory but it is an absolute necessity when working above ground or when you are standing below someone working overhead.

A falling tool would have a distinct possibility of cracking your skull if hit by a large spanner of hammer falling from above you.

9d Electricity

9d.1 Recall that a dangerous electric shock can result from antennas and ladders coming into contact with or arcing from overhead lines.

You were introduced to dangers associated with electricity (mains) and (RF) in the Foundation Licence and whilst normally it is our friend to power our radios there is the dangers of electric shock can result from antennas and ladders coming into contact with or arcing from overhead lines. The potential arcing to occur is due to the ladder being at lower potential, that of the ground, than the voltages being carried by the wires and for the potential desire to flow into the lower level.

So don't try to erect :-

  • a metal mast right underneath a power line nor

  • try to tie an antenna to an overhead power cable or its support nor

  • work near an antenna wire which might be in use and the operator not know you are in the vicinity

9d.2 Understand that a fuse must be correctly rated for proper protection, and be able to select an appropriate fuse using the formula for power, i.e. current = power/230, where 230 is the nominal mains voltage.
Fused plug

In the UK the nominal mains voltage is 230V AC

Whilst you have not been asked to calculate the current rating of a fuse before - you are now. However this is only the most basic of calculation and to the purest it would not be considered correct but for the course you use the equation :-

current = power/230

So if you had a 230w bulb the bulb would be said to have an INPUT POWER of 230W.

Thus from the calculation current = power divided by voltage you get 230/230 = 1 amp. out of the choice of fuse 3,5 or 13 amp you would chose 3amp

Again if it was input power of 2300W fire you would use a 2300/230 = 10 amps you would then have to use a 13 amp fuse.

Now in the exam you will not be likely to have such easy calculation but the method is the same :-

fuse rating = power divided by the mains voltage of 230V

To re-cap mains plug fuses in UK come in three current ratings 3, 5 and 13 amps. The fuse rating that you chose will be the one which is just higher than the calculated value of the input current which has been worked out from the input power.

9d.3 Understand that a residual current device (RCD) will give better protection against electric shock than relying solely on a conventional fuse (which only protects against excessive current) and earth system.

NOTE: The student should appreciate that an RCD will detect currents to earth of about 30mA whereas a fuse will only blow at several amps and only when the fault is a short circuit ( L-N or L-E). The mechanics of RCD operation (differential current sensing) is not examinable.

Some students ignore this section maybe it is because they doe not understand that in most residential accommodation the residual current device (RCD) is used and thus is common place but not understood as was the old fuse wire.

The residual current device (RCD) is a modern device that switches off the power if a short circuit or overload occurs. It offer better protection again shock than conventional fuse as it shuts down much quicker. Fuses tend to have about 50% load extra to fail but this is only a generalization to help you remember the RCDs are better.

A short circuit ( L-N or L-E) Live to Neutral or Live to earth is all that the fuse in a plug can detect!

9d.4 Understand that large or high-voltage capacitors can store dangerous electric charges and must be discharged before working on equipment.

A capacitor has the ability of store a charge equal in voltage to that which is applied to "charge up" the capacitor. Which ,if some means to discharge the capacitor, such as a "bleed" resistor, does not exist, the capacitor might well stay charged for a long time until natural leakage of the charge occurs. If the voltage is 230V then the shock you would get from it would be the same as a mains electric shock. The danger would be even greater if it was a high voltage capacitor and a high value capacitor as the discharge would be immense.

Even a high value capacitor at low voltage say 12V could do a lot of damage it say a screw driver fell across it. It would be like a welding flash and probably burn the screw driver in half.

9e RF

9e.1 Recall that the main health effect of electromagnetic radiation is heating of body tissue.

What is electromagnetic radiation please ? asked one student the other night. So here is the answer:-

As a Foundation Licence holder, if you have been operating your transceiver then you have been using electromagnetic radiation. In fact when you have been listening to the broadcast radio, watching the television or even cooking in your microwave cooker you have been using electromagnetic radiation one way or another. Electromagnetic wave is just a fancy way of saying radio waves but there are also many other wave that have names within the range of electromagnetic radiation as shown in the diagram below.

You can see now the change in frequency from say 1MHz at the radio to many many many Mhz at the gamma ray end. Note also the portion of the microwave just above radio and below infrared. Infrared is heat rays and microwave cooker do just that with slightly lower frequencies.

The only difference in the waves is their wave length.

So now you understand what electromagnetic radiation is the point here is to know that the main health effect of electromagnetic radiation is heating of body tissue just like you cook in a micro wave. Thus do not touch an antenna when in use and also do not get too near to them.

9e.2 Recall that guidance on safe levels of RF radiation is available from government and international bodies (HPA - Health Protection Agency and ICNIRP International Committee on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection).

Booklets can be obtained that give information as to what are considered "safe" radiation levels. Such booklets are available from government and international bodies (HPA and ICNIRP).

The HPA Agency (Health Protection Agency) was established as a non-departmental public body, replacing the National Radiological Protection Board (HPA) and with radiation protection as part of health protection incorporated in what is has to control.

So be aware that this change may not have filtered through to all training courses.

9e.3 Recall that it is unwise to look down waveguides or to stand close to or in front of high-gain antennas as they may be in use.

What is a waveguide please ? asked one student the other night. So here is the answer:-

The photograph shows a section of "Waveguide". This piece has no flange on the end to join it to the next piece or to what would look like a rectangular funnel or horn as the end of a microwave antenna is called.

The waveguides are used in microwave transmissions lines. Unlike "normal" coaxial antenna the waveguide looks like the end of a flattened pipe and the microwaves shoot out of them usually into a dish or some other radiating antenna - just like a bullet comes out of a gun or water out of a hose.

So looking down a wave guide would be just like looking down the barrel of a gun and could be just as dangerous!!

To see some more waveguide click here.

Hi-gain antennas

Hi-gain antennas are yagis where the RF is being concentrated in one direction (for the most part) and thus it is unwise to stand in front or near to the side off a yagi as the ERP will be several times as great as the power being fed to the antenna.

Further the higher the frequency the greater the risk.

Note Yagi are usually fed by coaxial feeder and thus are not to be associated with wave guides as a feeder to them.

So stand clear of ALL yagis and especially those at higher frequencies.

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